Medical Clinics Are the New Banks in Stores

Discussion
Jan 10, 2006
George Anderson

By George Anderson

It used to be that banks were popping up in just about every supermarket you went into. Today, banks can still be found in many locations but, increasingly, in-store medical
clinics are finding a synergistic relationship with pharmacies in supermarkets, drugstores and other formats.

Kroger, reports The Commercial Appeal, will open its first in-store medical clinic in Memphis early next month.

“Often our pharmacists end up being the only health care provider some of our customers see,” said Eddie Garcia, head of Kroger’s pharmacy merchandising in the Delta region.
“We decided we wanted someone who could diagnose their illnesses.”

The diagnosis will be provided by licensed nurse practitioners who can run a number of diagnostic tests and write prescriptions for patients.

Kroger has hired Family Medic to run the in-store clinic.

The company’s president, Alonzo Pendleton, said, “We’re looking at seeing roughly 50 patients a day to start. We’d like to see it get to 75 to 80.”

Mr. Pendleton sees the service as quick and efficient. “We expect people will be in and out in 15 minutes. But if there is a wait, we will give them pagers so they can look around
the store until the nurse is ready to see them.”

Grocers such as Kroger are hoping that in-store clinics will encourage shoppers to buy prescription and over-the-counter healthcare items in their stores rather than going elsewhere.

“We’ll tell people that one of their options is to fill the prescription in the store or if it’s an over-the-counter item, where they can find it in the store,” said Family Medic’s
Pendleton.

Moderator’s Comment: Are in-store medical clinics demographically neutral, i.e. will they work in all locations, or do you believe they are best suited
for specific stores with customers fitting targeted profiles? How will in-store clinics impact healthcare and retailing in the future?

George Anderson – Moderator

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10 Comments on "Medical Clinics Are the New Banks in Stores"


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Len Lewis
Guest
Len Lewis
15 years 1 month ago

Kroger isn’t the first to do this. Chains and some independents have been trying for several years to link the grocery business with “wellness centers” staffed by nurse practitioners, pharmacists and even experts on homeopathic remedies.

In general, I firmly believe that an in-store clinic is an excellent idea. It increases the bond between the retailer and customers if stores become trusted healthcare providers and advisors — not to mention increased pharmacy sales.

The issue is not whether supermarkets should be doing it but where and to what extent. If you go too far in offering clinic-type services, you risk alienating shoppers that don’t want their store to become a sick ward for walk-ins. I think you want to have enough room so the healthcare section can be kept away from where you’re trying to sell prepared or gourmet foods.

Additionally, even if you outsource the service — and most will — are there liability issues for retailers to consider?

Eva A. May
Guest
Eva A. May
15 years 1 month ago

In-store medical clinics are a great idea for high-Hispanic stores, if the professionals and treatment advice can be given in Spanish. In Latin America, many people seek advice directly from pharmacists, and do not need prescriptions from doctors in order to buy drugs. Spanish-language healthcare in supermarkets with pharmacies could offer Hispanics coming to the U.S. a more navigable and more cost-effective system, versus figuring out the typical U.S. system (i.e., find a doctor, visit the doctor, get a prescription, go to the pharmacy to get it filled).

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 1 month ago

Two big issues: (1) will there be an MD present and (2) what insurance plans will be accepted? The “doc in a box” concept lures much more traffic if an MD is present, not just nurses. The greater the number of insurance plans accepted, the greater the traffic, especially since many MD’s aren’t accepting new patients anyway. But many MD’s won’t accept certain insurance plans because of difficult reimbursement procedures and absurdly low service fees. The controversial question: will the location accept Medicaid and Medicare? Accepting Medicaid attracts low-income traffic, generating high volume, but can repel higher income customers, if not handled appropriately. Accepting Medicare attracts seniors, which also may change the visitor traffic. Both the retailer and the medical firm need to attract appropriate traffic, which needs to be planned well in advance.

Bill Bittner
Guest
Bill Bittner
15 years 1 month ago

Maybe the in-store clinic is way overdue. I began my career as a part time grocery clerk in high school and can still remember the day we had to shut down the bakery aisle to handle the delivery of a baby. Having a clinic in the store would have been real helpful. I know one former store manager who would be an advocate.

The clinic idea is another example of how Supermarkets can respond to the needs of the consumer. It may only make sense in certain areas but where it does, it will increase the utility of the store for its customers. The more a Supermarket can do to make itself part of their customers’ lives, the more often it will become the “location of choice.”

This will be an interesting experiment to watch.

David Zahn
Guest
15 years 1 month ago

I think the effort works best where medical care is not as plentiful or where healthcare costs are beyond the reach of the population (which means everywhere as healthcare costs continue to sky rocket).

However, as a consumer I would AVOID these stores if I had a choice. I do NOT want to be in a store with people that are self-identified as experiencing health issues and worry that they have the pager or beeper in their pockets and are waiting their turn at the clinic while they are picking out their breakfast cereals or frozen foods. I see this as a BAD idea unless there is a TOTAL separation of healthcare providers and retail establishment (separate entrances, no “co-mingling” of the populations, etc.).

Contagions being what they are…I do not need to go looking to become a host to every disease that walks into a clinic when all I went into the store for was toothpaste, shampoo, mustard, Dr Pepper and a half-pound of salami!

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
15 years 1 month ago

Would in-store clinics be the same in all locations? Of course not? Will there be insurance and liability issues? Of course. Could this be an affordable service for those who are not covered by insurance? Possibly. Is this something your consumers would value? If you don’t know the answer to that question, you need to find out. If someone else offers the service and you don’t, you could lose all the customers who want that service.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 1 month ago
Those who point out the hygiene and contagion issues are right on the mark in my view. On the one hand, we are all worried about flu pandemics; on the other, we are encouraging sick people to visit nurses (not even doctors) in supermarkets???!!! Where are the smarts in that? And, just for good measure, encouraging them to get their medication in the store and go wandering around before or after their appointments? No thanks, not for me. I have seen stores in the US and the UK with visiting medical practitioners offering specific services, at specific times, for flu shots, cholesterol or blood pressure checks but these are more preventative than anything else and therefore not on the same scale or carrying the same potential for problems. Even diagnostic tests for something like diabetes, which is not contagious, may be acceptable. BUT we have also talked many many times about how anxious people are to get in and out as quickly as possible when going shopping. Why are we now suggesting that they hang… Read more »
Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
15 years 1 month ago

How can I be against anything Kroger does? I can’t. Kroger likes to do leading-edge things.

While I believe medical clinics could gain acceptance in many locations, my fertile mind has a haunting fear beyond the practical aspect of such clinics. If they were to become a “growth segment” within the supermarket industry, they could start a process to expand them into clinic-hospitals in order to offer expanded consumer services.

Why the “tongue-in-cheek” fear? In days past supermarket shoppers liked to watch the butchers behind glass windows carve up the carcasses of beef, pork and lamb to be re-assure they were getting fresh sanitized meat product. It is a bit scary to me to vaguely visualize that some supermarkets might possibly become counterpoints of “ER” or “Grey’s Anatomy” with the shoppers, with bascarts of perishables, watching.

Shirley Jung
Guest
Shirley Jung
15 years 1 month ago
We are starting to see Medical clinics in the grocery stores in Wisconsin. They are manned by physician assistant’s who are capable of writing prescriptions if needed. They are charging a flat fee of $30.00 for a visit. They are performing tests that can easily be done without going to the doctor’s i.e. strep throat, flu shots, ear infections etc. This will be good for people who don’t have insurance or have to pay a higher deductible or even if the initial doctor visit is expensive. There is also the convenience of not having to make an appointment to see the doctor. I think this is a very big win for the consumer. I think the only draw back that there could be is the quality of the clinic. You have to be able to trust where you are going and the people who are running the clinics. The clinics that I have seen are part of a major hospital system here in Wisconsin and they have a good reputation. This will also help the… Read more »
Mark Hunter
Guest
Mark Hunter
15 years 1 month ago

It’s a great strategy that will help tighten the link between a visit to the doctor’s office and the pharmacy. This is a key way for a grocer with a pharmacy to distinguish themselves against a free-standing pharmacy. Next step will be for dentists to start locating in grocery stores. Dentists have a lot to gain since their business is the first one people cut when they want to contain medical expenses. With this being the case a dentist has the greatest potential to gain incremental traffic by making their location more accessible.

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